I said in the intro that it was going to be an eclectic show, and our host and buddy Bill Cody acted like that was a bad word. Far from it. Variety is what makes a meal or a musical diet, and MCR had it tonight.
Of course it was nice to know that whatever else happened, we were going to land in comfortable country terrain with a true legend. Charlie Louvin capped off our evening with energy and style, nailing the songs of tragedy and salvation that made his career something for the history books. “Wreck On The Highway” may be a bloody tale worthy of the ten o’clock news, but when Charlie Louvin sings, it’s like a Shakespeare play.
It also helps when you bring along a legendary surprise guest, but that’s what Charlie did, sharing the stage for a couple songs with the awe-inspiring Melba Montgomery. He even led the gang in a Loveless Jam performance of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” a song that always risks turning into its own wreck on the highway, and made it a fantastic swan song.
Most unusual, but connected to the roots idea in his own way, was guitarist Steve Kimock. He’s royalty in the jam band universe, and his set was made up of just a couple of long, funky songs that showed off his lush and flowing style. His cutting tone on the lap steel and rich chordal ideas made me want to hear a lot more. Sadly I wasn’t quite up for lighting out for the Exit/In after Roots wrapped up, where Kimock was playing a late night set. But I was glad to get a sense of this major-league Bay Area musician.
Our fair newcomer tonight was Angela Easterling, who brought along her new album’s producer, the great Will Kimbrough for a trio set that showed off her grace and songwriting prowess. She’s a folk singer at heart, but “Blacktop Road,” the title track of her current album, was a rocking portrait of her family farm’s battles with the encroachment of shopping malls and other sorts of “progress.”
And there in the middle, tall and proudly bespectacled, was Webb Wilder, an icon of Nashville’s roots rock history. He belted beautifully on Percy Sledge’s “Sudden Stop” and brought his signature twisting twang with “Juju Man” from his new opus, More Like Me. We could use more like Webb, except they broke the mold with him, as they say.
So a good time was had by all, and we were thrilled to spot a bevy of musical notables in the crowd. Kristi Rose and Fats Kaplan have been I think to every Music City Roots, and we love ‘em for it. We also enjoyed the company of Donna The Buffalo’s Tara Nevins, as well as Craig Aspen and Cyd Frazzini of The Believers, who will be on our 1/6/10 show. Micol and Ricky Davis of Blue Mother Tupelo were on hand, as were Compass Records owners and fab musicians Garry West and Alison Brown, with a gang from the National Council For The Traditional Arts. Were we traditional tonight? Depends on your point of view. But we sure had some fun.